US – Atomo Coffee Inc., a US based food startup is has developed a technology that makes it possible to make coffee without coffee beans.
Atomo’s coffeeless coffee is made from upcycled ingredients, e.g. sunflower seed husks and watermelon seeds, which undergo a patented chemical process to yield molecules that mimic the flavor and mouthfeel of the real thing.
The company says that the resulting grounds are brewed just like a regular cup of coffee. And yes, it has caffeine.
The startup which is comprised of a team of food scientists and chemists led by friends and co-founders Andy Kleitsch and Jarret Stopforth hope that what they are currently working on will be the successor to meatless meat, eggless eggs, and milkless milk.
Why make coffee-less coffee
The $100 billion coffee industry is one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change. The plants that grow arabica beans—the most common worldwide, favored by both coffee enthusiasts and chains like Starbucks Corp.—thrive in cool regions with distinct rainy and dry seasons.
But global warming is causing those regions to shrink. Within the next seven decades, arabica is likely to lose at least 50% of its habitat, according to a 2019 report from scientists at Britain’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
As temperatures continue to rise and growers move their farms in search of cooler temperatures, rates of deforestation rise, as well.
Atomo seeks to address this issue by developing a unique product that is not only independent of coffee but also utilizes upcycled resources, a double plus for the environment.
“We like to think of ourselves as the Tesla of coffee,” said Stopforth, who’s spent the last two decades working in food science and development.
“Before Tesla came along, if you wanted a luxurious, powerful vehicle that was detached from diesel and fuel, you had no option,” Stopforth added.
“In the same way, before Atomo, if you wanted coffee that wasn’t linked to deforestation, you had no choice. Now you do.”
While there are numerous certifications available to show that products are sustainably sourced, the lack of a unified standard with transparent metrics leaves the door wide open for fraud from producers and mistrust from consumers.
Investors with experience backing plant-based food tech are betting Atomo can fill that gap and provide a trully sustainable alternative to coffee.
The company has raised about US$11.5 million in two rounds of funding since 2019, when it launched with a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign.
Its backers now include Hong Kong-based Horizons Ventures, which invested in Impossible Foods Inc., and S2G Ventures, whose portfolio includes Beyond Meat Inc.
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